Arlington, VA

(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a major vandalism spree in the area of Columbia Pike.

Police say nearly two dozen parked cars had their tires slashed over the weekend. It happened on the 4500 and 4600 blocks of S. Four Mile Run Drive and the 1100 block of S. Thomas Street, just south of the Pike in the Douglas Park neighborhood.

So far, police have no suspect description, only saying that the “investigation is ongoing.”

“Officers canvased the area for surveillance and witnesses with negative results,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Anyone who witnessed suspicious activity in the area on Friday evening into Saturday morning or has any information related to the investigation is asked to contact police.”

More from a crime report:

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY – VEHICLE (series), 2019-05110081/05110088/05110096, 4600 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive/4500 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive/1100 block of S. Thomas Street. At approximately 7:28 a.m. on May 11, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 8:30 p.m. on May 10 and 6:30 a.m. on May 11, the tires of approximately 22 vehicles parked in the area were slashed. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

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The county is moving forward with long-held plans to narrow lanes and widen sidewalks on Columbia Pike near the Penrose neighborhood, but not everyone is on board.

County staff presented an updated version of the plan last week to the Penrose Neighborhood Association. It calls for narrowing the lefthand travel lanes on the Pike east of S. Wayne Street down to 10 feet, and narrowing the righthand lanes, next to the sidewalk, to 11 feet.

The project is slated for the section of the Pike between S. Garfield Street and S. Quinn Street, staff told ARLnow, and the total Columbia Pike right-of-way width is expected to remain 56 feet width.

It’s also part of a years-long plan to improve the Pike and add more room for pedestrians and bicyclists. However, attendees at the meeting said they fear tighter lanes could mean trickier turning and more accidents for cars.

“The goal of the project is to make Columbia Pike a safer, more accessible route for all users by creating a balance between pedestrian, bicycle, transit and vehicle spaces,” said county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet in an email Monday.

Even after the presentation by the county, some local residents remained skeptical.

“No satisfactory or convincing reason was offered by the county regarding the plan to reduce the lane size,” said one man. “It is quite concerning that a main hub such as Columbia Pike is expected to suffer significant lane reductions that will likely create traffic backups and accidents.”

“At the meeting we discussed many scenarios, like could a school bus pass a garbage truck, could a Giant delivery truck make the turn into Adams Street, could an 18 wheeler pass a bus on the left,” Penrose Association President Maria “Pete” Durgan said, adding that county staff agreed to look into the questions.

Bailliet said the plan is based on “urban street design guidelines from the National Association of City Transportation Officials,” which “recommend that lanes should not be greater than 11 feet as they may cause unintended speeding and assume valuable right of way at the expense of other modes.”

Bailliet says the new lane widths have also already been rolled out in other parts of the Pike, including on the sections between:

  • Four Mile Run and S. Wakefield Street
  • S. Oakland Street and S. Garfield Street
  • Washington Blvd and Columbia Pike interchange

The plan was listed in the the bike component of the county’s Master Transportation Plan, which the County Board updated last week. In it, the county said it intends to build “wide multi-use trails, or wide sidewalks, along at least one side of Columbia Pike in the areas east of S. Wayne Street and west of Four Mile Run” for bikes and pedestrians to share.

“It is tackling a tough question,” the Penrose Neighborhood Association’s website said of the revised lanes. “With only a limited amount of right-of-way, how should that space be allocated? Turn lanes? Street Trees? Wider sidewalks? Bike lanes?”

The reason to widen the sidewalks, Bailliet said, was in part to allow a more vibrant and business-friendly streetscape, but also partially to provide a way for cyclists to connect with the designated bike boulevards that run parallel the Pike.

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Morning Notes

Caps Player Abandons Car on Glebe Road — “Monday was media day for the Capitals, their first practice of the postseason. [Lars] Eller was on his way to MedStar Capitals Iceplex when suddenly, his car broke down… in the middle of Glebe Road.” [NBC Sports Washington]

Task Force Ices Snow Proposal — “Thirteen of the 14 voting members of the task force ‘do not believe the county has made the case that snow operations on [the large government parcel at Old Dominion Drive and 26th Street North] must be expanded, especially given the small number of annual major storms.'” [InsideNova]

ACPD Marks Alcohol Awareness Month — “Alcohol Awareness Month, recognized each April, is a public health program designed to increase outreach and education on the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcohol. More than 300 establishments in Arlington County hold Virginia ABC licenses permitting the serving and sale of alcohol.” [Arlington County]

Amazon May Pay for Public Transit — “Amazon has actively promoted the use of public transit, such as by paying the full cost of its employees’ fare cards for light rail, buses and ferries — a perk that it is considering extending to new employees in Arlington. The company boasts that only a quarter of its Seattle employees commute to work by driving solo. Nearly 1 in 3 use transit, and more than 1 in 5 walk.” [Washington Post]

Arlington Touts Bike Benefits — “The County continues to build on the bicycle’s unique ability to provide clean short- and medium-range transportation that requires far less infrastructure and resources compared to automobile traffic.” [Arlington County]

Water Main Repairs CompleteUpdated at 8:35 a.m. — Repairs to a burst 12-inch water main in Crystal City have been completed, but several roads in the area remain closed. The water main break cut water service to several buildings in the area, including a hotel. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated 1:45 p.m.) Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about refinancing their car, which is why Ballston-based startup MotoRefi aims to make it as simple and painless as possible.

The company claims to save customers an average of $100 per month on car refinancing. MotoRefi works with credit agencies to take improvements in people’s credit score and other factors into account when it comes to car payments.

“A car is the most expensive purchase many people make, outside of their home,” said Kevin Bennett, CEO of MotoRefi. “Unfortunately, most people are driving around in cars with payments that are too high and are at risk of unexpected car expenses that could derail their finances.”

Bennett said reducing the amount people spend every month on car payments helps MotoRefi customers build better financial protection and save up to pay off student loans or other debts.

“We also reduce the risk that people will face a large unexpected out-of-pocket car expense, which is important because people have enough economic anxiety and risk in their lives,” Bennett said. “We help ensure that your car is an asset to your life, not a liability.”

According to Bennett, traditional refinancing can be confusing and lacks transparency. The process starts obligation free, with offers from lenders visible with no social security number required and no impact on a credit score.

If the customer chooses to go through with the refinancing, MotoRefi charges a $399 fee to cover the costs of processing documents and retitling vehicles, which is included in the refinanced loan amount.

Moving forward, the company is looking into platform expansions on the technology and analytics sides, as well as expanding into new markets and growing the local team. Bennett made sure to note that the company is currently hiring.

The company started in 2017 out of an office in Alexandria but moved to Ballston in 2018.

“We moved [to Ballston] because of its central location, the region’s impressive workforce and technical talent, proximity to the metro and the great restaurants and coffee shops the Ballston’s redevelopment has brought to the neighborhood,” Bennett said. “We’ve got a Philz Coffee, Sweet Green, Cava and a ton of other destinations our team loves. And we’re working on a sweet new HQ in the neighborhood, so stay tuned for more to come on that.”

Photo courtesy MotoRefi

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Arlington leaders have already decided to do with away with the county’s car decal program to track personal property tax payments, but they’re still looking to make the change a bit more official before it goes into effect this summer.

Starting July 1, county drivers will no longer need to display the brightly colored stickers on their cars to prove they’re paid up on their taxes. The County Board eliminated the program last year, though the annual fee previously attached to the decals will remain.

Now, the Board needs to make a few tweaks to its existing ordinances to eliminate any reference to the car decals. Members are set to take up the matter for the first time at their meeting Saturday (Feb. 23).

Proposed changes to the county code include the elimination of police officers’ authority to hand out fines for not displaying a valid “license tag.”

However, county workers will still be able to write $50 tickets if they discover drivers haven’t paid that motor vehicle fee, thanks to license plate reader technology increasingly embraced by the county treasurer’s office.

The changes would also clarify that the “motor vehicle license fee” will still be collected alongside property tax payments, even though it’s no longer attached to any decals.

The Board would also stipulate that the annual license fee is “not to be prorated” and is only refundable “when proof is provided that the fee was paid in error” under the proposed alterations.

In order to make the changes official, the Board plans to call for an April 2 public hearing on the matter, then hold a final vote immediately afterward.

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Morning Notes

Memorial Bridge Potholes — Large potholes made for dangerous driving on the under-construction Memorial Bridge over the weekend, but crews started repairing the bridge’s pockmarked surface Tuesday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Poke Restaurant Coming to Ballston — Local restaurant Poke It Up is expanding with a second location. The restaurant, which first opened in the Pentagon City mall food court, is now planning to open this summer at 4401 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston, next to a new soup shop, Zoup. [Eater]

Shutdown Costing Local Economy Big Bucks — “About $119.2 million per day is removed from the gross regional product each day the shutdown drags on, according to local economist Stephen Fuller, thanks to lost pay of federal workers, contractors and suppliers and the multiplied economic effects of their lost spending. That daily hit… drops to $46.4 million per day once federal workers are ultimately repaid their lost wages.” [Washington Business Journal]

Overturned Vehicle in Crystal City — A driver managed to flip his or her vehicle in a crash last night on 18th Street S., near the Crystal City Metro station. [Twitter]

Board Set to Endorse VRE Funding — “Arlington County Board members on Jan. 26 are expected to endorse a request by Virginia Railway Express (VRE) for state funding to support construction of a new Crystal City station. The transit agency will seek grant funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which if approved could cover up to 70 percent of the cost of construction. VRE will fund the rest.” [InsideNova]

Changes to State Inspection Stickers — “The stickers are smaller, in response to complaints that the new sticker placement on the bottom left of the windshield, which started in 2018, resulted in reduced visibility for drivers.” [Tysons Reporter]

Nearby: Alexandria Warns About Opioids — “The City of Alexandria has responded to four suspected opioid overdoses in the last 72 hours, including two fatalities. While recreational use of opioids is always dangerous and illegal, City officials are urging residents to be aware of the medical safety of the drugs, including heroin, that could be extremely concentrated or mixed with something unusual that is resulting in life-threatening situations.” [City of Alexandria]

Flickr pool photo by Eschweik

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Starting tomorrow, Virginia State Police are set to start enforcement activities intended to punish High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) violators on I-66.

VSP will start a focused HOV enforcement on I-66 express lanes inside the Beltway tomorrow (Thursday) during the morning and afternoon rush hour periods, the Virginia Department of Transportation recently announced.

Violators caught in this area face fines ranging from $125 for a first offense, up to $1,000 for a fourth or subsequent offense within a period of five years from the first one.

Drivers must have an E-ZPass device or E-ZPass Flex for vehicles with two or more people to travel during rush hours.

All vehicles with two or more people may use the road during rush hours for free, but need an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV-mode. Drivers who choose to pay a toll and drive by themselves in the express lanes also need an E-ZPass.

VSP’s last focused HOV enforcement initiative in the same area caught 32 violators, and police wrote 19 other citations on Nov. 30.

HOV hours are from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. eastbound and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. westbound, Monday through Friday.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Restaurant Owners Eye Crystal City — “Andrew Dana, owner of Parkview bagel sensation Call Your Mother and lauded Petworth pizza spot Timber Pizza Co., texted his business partner Jeff Zients on Tuesday night with one question: ‘How do we get into Amazon HQ2?’ It’s a question many restaurant and bar owners will likely be asking in the coming months as Crystal City and Pentagon City prepare to host parts of Amazon.com Inc.’s HQ2 and its eventual 25,000 employees.” [Washington Business Journal]

Last Vehicle Decal Deadline is Tomorrow — “Nov. 16 is the deadline for owners of vehicles garaged in Arlington to display the 2018-19 county vehicle decal. Decals, which signify payment of vehicle taxes, should be placed adjacent to the state-inspection sticker on the driver’s side of the windshield.” [InsideNova]

Columnist: Ban Cars in National Landing — “It seems pretty obvious what Arlington, Amazon, and JBG Smith (Amazon’s future landlord) absolutely need to do: Take the dramatic but wholly necessary step of banning cars and closing all the parking lots throughout National Landing.” [Washington City Paper]

Home Sales Down, Prices Up — “The arrival of Amazon may change things over the long haul, but for now, the Arlington real estate market seems to be moving through a dormant period, sales-wise – with few signs of improvement on the near horizon. But while sales were down, the average sales price was up slightly and prices of single-family properties averaged more than $1 million during the month, according to new figures.” [InsideNova]

First Word of HQ2 Win Received in Wendy’s Parking Lot — “Virginia learned it had won the biggest economic development contest in U.S. history when a low-profile state official got a phone call in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant in the Shenandoah Valley at 2 p.m. Monday.” [Washington Post]

Tips for Thanksgiving Travel at DCA — “Construction delays and big holiday crowds mean you’ll have to add extra time to fly in or out of the D.C. region’s airports for much of the next month and a half.” [WTOP, MWAA]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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Morning Notes

Big Tree Fall on Car — A large tree fell across 8th Street S. late last week, crushing a parked car and causing a widespread power outage. [Twitter]

Local NAACP Reflects on Progress — “The Arlington NAACP’s 71st-anniversary Freedom Fund Banquet was a chance to look back on progress, but also to press for vigilance so it doesn’t slip away… The banquet on Oct. 13 drew a large crowd to the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel.” [InsideNova]

Rosslyn LED Art Unveiled — “Cliff Garten Studio is pleased to announce, ‘Gravity and Grace,’ a site-specific large-scale LED public artwork integrated into the architecture of JBG SMITH’s Central Place Plaza in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington.” [LiveDesign]

Yorktown Tied for First — “With an important homecoming victory over the visiting Langley Saxons in Oct. 12 football action, the Yorktown Patriots (4-3, 2-0) upped their winning streak to three to remain tied for first place in the Liberty District.” [InsideNova]

ACPD Again Holding Take-Back Day — “On Saturday, October 27, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 16th opportunity in seven years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Starting next year, Arlington drivers won’t need to display a car decal on their vehicles for the first time in decades.

The County Board voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to end the requirement that owners of vehicles parked in Arlington use a sticker to prove they’ve paid personal property taxes.

The “motor vehicle license fee” associated with the decal, which helps the county pull in about $5 million each year, will remain under the Board’s plan. But starting July 1, 2019, the county will now rely entirely on license plate readers to track whether drivers are up to date on their taxes.

“This is truly the end of an era for Arlington,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “The decal is going the way of the horse-and-buggy.”

The county first began requiring drivers to display a metal tag on license plates all the way back in 1949, moving to a decal system in 1967. Yet, as other localities across the state have increasingly abandoned similar decals, pressure on the county to follow suit mounted.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Board member John Vihstadt said at the meeting Tuesday. “We’re not getting rid of the fee, it’s important to our tax base and enforcement of motor vehicle regulations and so forth. But this will eliminate the nuisance of having a decal.”

County treasurer Carla de la Pava remains confident that Arlington will be able to maintain its low tax delinquency rate even with this change, though it will also mark the end of her office’s annual design competition for the decal, which featured art from local high school students.

“The decal competition was a great collaboration between art, teens, and local government, and I am sorry to see it end,” de la Pava said in a statement.

File photo

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Dozens of vehicles were damaged at apartment parking lots in the Pentagon City and Crystal City area this past weekend.

According to police, “approximately 35 vehicles were smashed and [had] airbags stolen.” The damaged cars were discovered Saturday morning.

A resident of the RiverHouse Apartments, whose car was among those damaged, said the large Pentagon City apartment complex was a target for the thieves.

“On Saturday, July 7, I was informed that my car had been vandalized: window busted and driver’s airbag stolen,” she said. “Twenty-four other cars in the RiverHouse Apartments complex had their airbags stolen. All were Honda Accords or Civics.”

“RiverHouse has no cameras filming the parking lots,” the resident added. The apartment complex’s vast parking lots have also been the scene of a number of car wheel thefts.

More on the airbag thefts from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 2018-07070087/07070100/ 07070106, 1600 block of S. Joyce Street/1600 block of S. Eads Street/2000 block of S. Eads Street. Between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on July 7, police responded to multiple reports of larcenies from auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 8:00 p.m. on July 6 and 7:54 a.m. on July 7, the windows of approximately 35 vehicles were smashed and airbags stolen. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

Photo via Google Maps

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